1. He can lead from the front
Not everyone has the opportunity to lead their state side when rising through the ranks, but Hardeman was one of the few young players across the country entrusted with a captaincy role for the 2023 under-18 National Championships. Revered by his peers and coaches, Hardeman consistently displays his high footballing IQ and plays with a strong sense of maturity on gameday, which could put him in the mix for a future leadership role at North Melbourne.
2. It might take a while to convert his nan
Despite growing up in Perth, Hardeman has begun life as "a Saints fan, unfortunately," he told SEN. "My Saints upbringing was that dad was originally from Mornington in Victoria, so I didn’t really get a choice to be a Saints fan (or not). I just learned to live with it." While Riley was "over the moon" to pull on the North Melbourne jumper on Monday night, getting his nan to support the Kangas might take more work. She is "a die-hard, one-eyed Saints fan," he said.
3. He's been tested against the bigger bodies
Being a young, talented footballer from the west normally means featuring in the WAFL on the path towards the AFL, and the journey has been no different for Hardeman. The dashing defender played five games for Swan Districts' reserves side in 2022 before making his debut for the senior side in Round 1 of the 2023 season. Playing in his natural half-back position, Hardeman notched 10 disposals and six marks in the Swans' one-point loss to East Perth.
4. He's a back-half architect
There's always a sense of calmness when Harry Sheezel is in possession of the ball while scanning the field from his own goalsquare, and that feeling may just extend to Hardeman. Often relied upon to kick out from full-back for WA, Hardeman's penetrating left boot provided the perfect launching pad from defensive 50.
"From a football perspective, I went into the year knowing because of the position I play, which is half-back, I needed to improve my kicking accuracy," Hardeman told The West Australian in October. "I placed real emphasis on that during the pre-season and the start of the year and I was seeing results, playing with the senior boys."
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5. He earned All-Australian honours
After showcasing his speed, composure, and strong overhead abilities in his role for Western Australia in the under-18 National Championships, Hardeman was named at half-back in the competition's All-Australian side. He averaged 18.5 disposals, 5.8 marks, and 6.3 rebound 50s across four games, and was one of four WA representatives and three new Roos (along with Colby McKercher and Zane Duursma) to land a spot in the 23-player line-up.